A bad mental health day looks different for everyone. Perhaps the sun has been hiding for hours on end, the demands of work are pushing you to your limit, or maybe you’re experiencing burnout from years of overperformance and productivity (I’m really calling myself out here).
As someone who is a habitual “fixer,” and likes to solve problems and avoid discomfort at all costs (my therapist will gladly call that a trauma response), I am a pro at trying to cheer myself up.
But the reality is, sometimes the best way to cheer ourselves up is to feel our feelings just as they are and let them pass naturally.
However, learning how to self-soothe is a vital part of life and helps us handle the big, overwhelming emotions that much better (and maybe even send the not-so-fun feelings on their way a little more quickly).
We’ve compiled a list to inspire some helpful self-soothing steps, and hopefully give your day the boost it needs.
If you’re experiencing a crisis or are in need of professional assistance for your mental health, we urge you to explore our Mental Health Resources page for more support.
How to cheer yourself up, even when it feels impossible
How to cheer yourself up when you’re alone
- Write yourself — or someone you care about — a love letter. Let it flow naturally and give you the encouragement you need.
- Practice some proactive self care. You deserve to feel good! In fact, here are 101 self-care ideas to get you started.
- Tune into a favorite show or movie. With what feels like a million streaming services, you’ll certainly find something that will bring you some comfort (or a brief, healthy distraction).
- Browse your library for a new book. Whether you go to your physical library, peruse what your friends are reading, or even grab a new audiobook with your Libro.fm credits, this is a great way to have a little adventure without traveling too far from home.
(PS, you can check out some of our favorite book recommendations to begin your hunt for the perfect read!)
- Get yourself a little treat. Boba, a smoothie, a little iced coffee — your call! Savor something that makes you feel good.
- If you have the ability, go for a drive. Just make sure you’re feeling OK to get behind the wheel, and take the scenic route for a little getaway. Bonus points if you roll down the windows and feel the breeze on your skin.
- Crack open your latest issue of the Goodnewspaper and read some stories about people and organizations doing good in the world. We might be a little biased, but it’s the perfect antidote when you’re having one of those days.
- Make a gratitude list. Start small with three tiny things you’re grateful for, and let it blossom into a beautiful practice.
- Turn on a standup comedy special, search for a TikTok compilation, or scroll through the profile of your favorite animal influencer to have a good laugh.
- Smile. It sounds goofy and trite, but even if you’re not in the mood to smile, or it feels forced, smiling releases endorphins that will have you feeling refreshed.
- Go somewhere new. Take yourself on a date to a place in your area you’ve never visited. Maybe it’s lunch at a new cafe or picking out a book from a local bookshop — the possibilities are endless!
- Do an activity for your brain. Start a puzzle, practice Sudoku, open up a coloring book, or rock out that daily crossword puzzle. It’s like enrichment time for puppies; you need to keep that brain busy!
- Make a playlist of all of your favorite upbeat songs. You can also create a different theme or feeling if you’re feeling creative.
- Not that it solves everything, but you probably haven’t had enough water today. Fill up your emotional support water bottle and get to hydrating!
(Check out our recommendations for the best self-care apps, including some amazing water-reminder apps.)
- Have a dance party or move your body in some way. Even those of us who have an aversion to exercise can tell you that moving and grooving does help push the clouds away.
- Reminisce by looking through some of your favorite photos in your camera roll. Personally, I always opt to scroll through photos from when I first got my dog as a puppy. Works every time.
- Not to be a “put on some lipstick and face the day” kind of girlie, but sometimes putting on a favorite outfit, trying out a fun makeup look, or styling your hair really does make a difference. Conversely, I’d also recommend taking off your makeup, grabbing some comfies, and feeling good in your skin however that may look.
- Learn about something new! Visit a random Wikipedia page, nose-dive into a niche podcast, subscribe to a new newsletter, or research the history of your favorite city. Your noggin will thank you.
- Do something with your hands. Grab a fidget toy, knead some dough, tend to your garden, or crochet a scarf.
Ideas to cheer up by being social
- Call a friend. Play catch up, chat about your favorite member of a boyband, talk smack about their favorite sports team — it’s up to you. Just connect with one another for even just a few minutes.
- Make plans with a friend for the future. It always helps to have something to look forward to. Coordinate schedules, start a Pinterest board for an upcoming birthday party, or even designate some time for a cozy movie night.
- Visit a museum or another cultural center in your area. Even if you go alone, being near other people who are admiring and learning about the same thing as you is good for the soul.
- Volunteer for a cause or organization you care about. Whether that means sorting clothing donations, donating blood, or planning a fundraising event, you’ll be a huge help!
- We all know airports are the best place for people watching, but head to your local park or coffee shop and enjoy being around diverse people.
- Practice a random act of kindness. No matter what you do, it will have a ripple effect on you and others.
- Support a local business. If retail therapy is your jam, visiting a local shop is a great way to connect with folks in your community and get that little dopamine rush. (It’s good for the economy, okay?!)
- Visit with elderly relatives or community members. Studies show that intergenerational relationships benefit everyone involved, and it’s a great way to connect with someone on a deeper level.
Ways to self soothe with the help of nature
- Go for a nature walk. Bring along your dog or just enjoy the scenes of nature. Even if it’s chilly out, if you can bundle up and brave the elements for even five or ten minutes, you’ll be doing wonders for your body and mind.
- Studies show that seeing and hearing birds is linked to lasting mental health benefits. See if you can go for a little bird-watching adventure near you.
- Catch some rays. Exposure to sunlight (even if it’s cloudy out) will boost your mood, improve your sleep, and can increase your energy.
- Chill in a hammock. Whether you have a hammock stand or can (responsibly) secure one to a tree, hammocks are a great way to reduce stress by stimulating your vestibular system. (Think: babies rocking in a swing).
- If there’s a botanical garden or wildflower field near you, enjoy the scents of some fresh flowers. If it’s not the season for lavender fields, you can always head to the store or a local nursery center to buy yourself some flowers.
- Water your plants! Take care of your at-home garden and enjoy the greenery that surrounds you.
- Visit a dog park or animal shelter. Grab your furry friend for a trip to the dog park or visit an animal shelter to get some puppy lovin’.
- Plan a trip to a national park! There are plenty of fee-free days to choose from.
How to cheer up by using your five senses
- Put your records on. Whether you literally boot up the turntable or you just hit ‘play’ on Spotify, listening to music has the power to put you back on track.
- Snuggle a pet. Whether you’re sharing a pillow with your pup or caressing your kitten, take in the comfort of their companionship.
- Embrace some aromatherapy. Light a soothing candle or turn on your essential oil diffuser for a scent-sory experience.
- Eat some delicious food. Order in, make something special, or snack on your favorite goodies.
- Give yourself a massage. Soothe your tense shoulders, knead your tired feet, and end with a little hug.
- Watch the sunset. Feast your eyes on something beautiful and allow yourself to be in awe of the world around you.
- Change your sheets or snuggle up with a toasty blanket. There really is nothing quite like some fresh linens.
- Give someone a big ole’ hug.
- Stretch your body with a brief yoga practice. You can also tap into some healing breathing exercises, while you’re at it!
- Do a little finger painting (or regular painting). Mindfully play with art materials to create something that helps you process your feelings — it doesn’t have to be beautiful!
- Chew some gum or pop in a breath mint. Another pro tip: Try some sour candy if your nervous system is dysregulated. This will help turn your attention away from symptoms of anxiety and focus on a different sensation.
- Take a relaxing bath or shower. And we mean relaxing. Gently scrub away the heavy feelings of the day, wash away the stress, and slowly watch it all go down the drain.
Little ways to cheer up every day
- Create a little self-care document or menu that points to some of your favorite activities on high- or low-energy days. This helps you process what works and helps you find the right coping skills the next time you need to open your toolbox.
- Subscribe to the Goodnewsletter for a daily dose of good news in your inbox every day!
- Incorporate a self-care or self-soothing activity into your daily ritual. Maybe it’s a spoonful of raw honey, a glass of water with a lemon wedge, or even punching a pillow to release stress and tension. You know yourself best; find something easy to do and run with it!
- Make time to do nothing. By having time to relax in our day-to-day lives, we reduce our levels of stress and our risk of burnout. Allow yourself to just be. When the inevitable shame of “not doing enough” comes up, let it float away while you let yourself rest.